Penn State Football: 3 Clear Signs from Opener That Joe Paterno Era Is Over
Whether you are a Penn State supporter or not, anyone who follows college football and saw Bill O'Brien's debut now realizes that the Joe Paterno era is at a dead end.
Let's be clear: the impact Joe Paterno left on the program will never die, nor will it ever be forgotten.
However, whether it was the pass-happy offensive scheme or the surname-laden blue jerseys, it's clear that the Bill O'Brien regime has taken over in Happy Valley.
With just one game in the books, let's take a look at a few signs that signal the end of JoePa's hold on the Penn State football program.
Pass-Happy Offensive Approach
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For many years, Penn State was the poster-boy for the "traditional" Big Ten school: win with a solid running game, timely pass plays and bruising defense.
After watching the first game of the O'Brien regime, you can't really say that this Nittany Lions squad is the same grind-it-out team they were under Paterno.
A prime example of this was the Lions' reliance on the passing game to defeat the Bobcats.
Senior quarterback and former walk-on Matt McGloin threw the ball 26 times in the first half—the most passes by a Penn State quarterback in the first half of a game since 2004.
McGloin, who is the undisputed starter behind center, finished the day with 260 yards passing and two touchdowns in O'Brien's new-look offense.
However, with the team passing so much, the running game began to suffer.
Lack of an Established Running Game
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Would the running game have prospered more had Bill Belton not injured his ankle? Probably.
Would the Lions have produced better strings of carries if Silas Redd were still at Penn State? Definitely.
However, both those things were out of the Lions' control, and it doesn't help that the running plays were untimely and predictable.
The running game—the Lions' bread and butter for so many years—was virtually nonexistent in the 24-14 defeat.
Penn State failed to hit the century mark carrying the ball, rushing for just 92 yards with Belton (13 carries, 53 yards, one fumble) leading the tailbacks.
Even though the team probably could have run the ball more often, it's clear that with O'Brien calling plays, the running backs will get less looks than in previous years.
New-Look Uniforms and Other Changes
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While most of the recent story lines about Penn State have been about off-the-field issues, the focus finally shifted back to the gridiron on Saturday.
But before the game even began, the eyes of Nittany Nation were on the players' backs as the team came out with the players' surnames on their blue jerseys.
While the jerseys remained vanilla under Paterno, O'Brien's executive decision to put the players' names on the back seems like it was for the right reasons.
"We want our fans to know and recognize these young men...They have stuck together during tough times, and I commend them for the leadership they have shown," he said. (via GoPSUSports.com)
Regardless, this is something the Lions' stubborn former coach would never have been okay with, and it looks like a new era.
Also, Bill O'Brien came off the No. 1 blue bus before the game, followed by team captains and Matt McGloin.
The stadium music also changed. Beaver Stadium was rocking with rock ballads like AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" throughout pregame and commercial breaks.